Aesthetic Realism's double-page ad in the New York
Here's what they blew a third of a million dollars
The Aesthetic Realists
haven taken out huge ads in major newspapers several times
to promote AR. The first was a full-page ad in the NY
Times in 1976. The second was an
ad to trumpet their "gay cure", which appeared in the NY
Times three times from 1978-79, and once each in the
Washington Post and LA Times. But by far the most ambitious
was the following double-page spread in the New York
Times on January 10, 1990. Looking up the Times' ad rates
right now, it looks like the Aesthetic Realists blew nearly
a third of a million dollars to get their message
out. And what did they use this unique opportunity to tell
the world? Pretty much what you'd expect, things like "Eli
Siegel [AR's founder] was the greatest man in the
history of the world," and "In keeping Aesthetic Realism
from you, the American press has committed a crime against
humanity as much as if it deliberately kept from starving
people the news that the food they needed was available for
them." But, you know, as the AR people say on Countering
the Lies, they're not a cult or anything.
Of the AR people who signed
this ad, a whopping 20 of them have since left and want
nothing more to do with the group.
Here's a reprint of the ad,
with certain bits highlighted for emphasis. Enjoy.
A LETTER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
From the Consultants and
of Aesthetic Realism
Dear American People:
We are writing this letter
because what we have met in the Aesthetic Realism of Eli
Siegel is what every person is hoping for and has the right
to know. The American press has kept Aesthetic Realism from
you. For decades the American press has boycotted this
education, which Eli Siegel founded in 1941.
Sir, Ms., Friend—Aesthetic
Realism explains truly the human self: it explains you and
your relation to the whole world—to all (in Mr.
Siegel's kind words) "that begins where our finger tips
end." Because Eli Siegel understood what no other man of
thought and certainly no psychiatrist understood—mind,
art, and the world—Aesthetic Realism has enabled
people, including us, to change in ways people everywhere
and in all times have longed to change.
Here are three principles of
this great, ever so needed education, stated by Eli
 Man's deepest desire, his largest
desire, is to like the world on an honest or accurate
 The desire to have contempt for the
outside world and for people and other objects as
standing for the outside world, is a continuous, unseen
desire making for mental insufficiency.
 The world, art, and self explain each
other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.
[Self and World (New York: Definition Press),
pp. 1, 83]
We Have Tested Aesthetic
We have looked at Aesthetic Realism critically,
terrifically critically. We have tested it. It is TRUE.
Aesthetic Realism explains the cause of loneliness,
depression, boredom, learning difficulties, pain in marriage—and
can end these. It explains racism, and can end it. And yes,
Aesthetic Realism explains the cause of war, and
when the United Nations studies
Aesthetic Realism (it can begin today) there will not be
war. The cause of the cruelties and griefs we just
mentioned is the desire for contempt, which everyone has.
"Contempt," wrote Eli Siegel, "can be defined as the
lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of
self-increase as one sees it." Only in Aesthetic Realism is
there the comprehension—and the beautiful effective
Some of us are Aesthetic Realism
consultants. We have what we consider the most fortunate,
useful profession there is: we teach Aesthetic Realism to
individuals in consultations at the Aesthetic Realism
Foundation in New York City and by telephone throughout
America and elsewhere; and we teach Aesthetic Realism in
classes and public seminars. The Aesthetic Realism
Foundation is a not-for-profit educational foundation. The
other signers of this letter are Aesthetic Realism
consultants-in-training. We all study in classes taught by
the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, Ellen Reiss.
The Reason for the Press
Soon twelve of us will tell some of what we have learned
from Aesthetic Realism. But first we say this:
Eli Siegel was the greatest man in the
history of the world. His mind had the greatest scope and
the greatest kindness; he was completely honest. This is why
the press has kept Aesthetic Realism from you: press persons
are furious that there are something and someone in this
world they cannot look down on, even a little; they are
furious that they respect Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism
without limit and need to learn from Aesthetic Realism about
everything. We ourselves, we say with shame, resented
Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism because we respected them
so much. There is nothing uglier than this resentment of
what is great and kind and of what millions of people want
so very much.
Here, then, is some of what we
have learned from Aesthetic Realism.
In keeping Aesthetic Realism—in
all its grandeur, all its kindness—from you, the
American press has committed a crime against humanity as
much as if it deliberately kept from starving people the
news that the food they needed was available for
Why People Don't Like
1. Robert Murphy (Aesthetic Realism consultant):
"I was a person who wanted to be everyone's best friend and
at the same time saw people as fools, taken in by my charm;
I acted as if I really ''had it together,' but inside I felt
hollow, and thought the world was a bad joke. In an
Aesthetic Realism lesson I had the honor to have in 1970,
Eli Siegel explained why I didn't like myself. He said:
- Everything we have against ourselves has to do with
this first thing: one doesn't like the world enough. The
thing that we have against ourselves is that we use our
experience to build ourselves up falsely and not
[see] meaning. Do you believe that you built
yourself up by finding that your parents weren't worthy
I am so grateful that my desire for
contempt was criticized by Aesthetic Realism. Eli
Siegel enabled me to have a life I cherish."
The Purpose of Love
2. Lauren Phillips (elementary
school teacher): "I learned the most important thing
about love from Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism: the
purpose of love is to like the world. The pain and
loneliness I felt for years because I thought love was a man
making me the most important thing in the world, ended.
Today I have proud emotions and a love for my husband, Bruce
Blaustein, that come from using a man to like the
What Education is For
3. Lois Mason (Aesthetic Realism consultant and
high school teacher): "I teach history in a public high
school on New York's Lower East Side. I learned from Eli
Siiegel and Aesthetic Realism what I most needed to know to
be the teacher I hoped to be: the purpose of education—'to
like the world through knowing it.' History, and every
subject, shows the world can be liked because it has an
aesthetic structure: it is a oneness of such opposites as
freedom and order, individuality and relation, permanence
and the moment. Learning this made me a successful teacher—enabled
my students, many of whom had had great difficulty in
school, to learn with pleasure and ease. I am among the many
teachers who know through our own daily experience in the
classroom that the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method is the
answer to the crisis in education!"
The Change from Homosexuality
4. [name omitted, see
note] (Aesthetic Realism Consultant):
"After spending many years desperately looking for a way to
change from homosexuality, I at last learned in the
Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel that
homosexuality is caused by contempt
for the world and women. Because of what I learned,
my attraction to men ended, and I changed from homosexuality
in six months. The life I have today as a married man who
cares passionately for my wife, [name omitted, see
note], her mind and body, I am proud to owe to the
most beautiful education in the world and
the kindest man who ever lived,
Aesthetic Realism and Eli Siegel."
[This person] is a
co-author of the book The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel
and the Change from Homosexuality.
We say what history will say: the
American press has blood on its hands, has caused misery and
death, because for years it has withheld the news that men
and women have changed from homosexuality through study of
Contempt Makes a Person Feel
5. Harriet Bernstein (typesetter): "I learned from
Aesthetic Realism that I felt burdened and angry so much of
the time not because, as I once thought, people made too
many demands on me—but because I had contempt, which
Eli Siegel described as the 'disposition in every person
to think he will be for himself by making less of the
outside world.' This was so hopeful, because it meant I
had a way of seeing people that made me feel ashamed, and
this way of seeing could change. I am so grateful to Eli
Siegel because the scientific and kind criticism of my
contempt that I heard from Aesthetic Realism freed me to
want to know and truly care for people."
When We Eat, the World as Food Becomes
6. Meryl Nietsch (administrative assistant):
"Before I began to study Aesthetic Realism, I was a lonely,
bitter young woman who suffered for ten years with the
eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. It was only in
Aesthetic Realism consultations that I learned the cause of
eating disorders—how they come from a way of seeing
the world. My consultants explained: 'Bulimia is a way of
managing, having the world please you but not affect you
[deeply]; and anorexia is a means of having yourself
pure, without any additions. Both arise from contempt.'
Studying this exact description of my contempt and learning
how to use food to like the world enabled me to have a
self-respect and dignity as I eat food."
The Self Wants to Be Like
7. Edward Green (composer and professor of music):
"As a person who once, shamefully, held the snobbish opinion
that art was the possession of a select group of talented
people, superior to other people, I am tremendously grateful
to have learned from Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism that
beauty is the most democratic thing in the world: it is what
every person judges himself by without knowing it. 'All
beauty is a making one of opposites,' stated Eli Siegel,
'and the making one of opposites is what we are going after
in ourselves.' This is the kindest and most ethically
stirring principle I know, and it is the happiness of my
life to have the privilege to study it."
How Should We See People?
8. Leila Rosen (high school teacher): "In
Aesthetic Realism consultations, I learned that every person
has the structure of reality in him: the opposites. When I
began to see how my father—the person with whom I was
so angry—was both bright and dark, gentle and fierce,
sure and unsure, as I was, I felt for the first time that I
could respect myself for my thought about him. My intense
anger changed to greater kindness, to my father and all
There Are Two Kinds of
9. David Bernstein (photographer): "When I learned
from Aesthetic Realism and Eli Siegel that there are two
kinds of anger—a wide anger in behalf of justice to
the world, and a narrow anger in behalf of self-love—the
anger that I felt would run me and I would be a slave to all
my life, ended. I began to have emotions, for people
and things, that made me proud."
What Guilt Is
10. Julie Jensen (Aesthetic Realism consultant):
"I was born and grew up in Nazi Germany. I learned from Eli
Siegel and Aesthetic Realism what I yearned to learn all my
life: that guilt is an emotion to be respected, because it
arises from the deepest thing in us, which tells us that
whenever we're unjust to the outside world we have to be
against ourselves. When I studied the opposites of justice
and injustice, good and evil in myself, and how these
opposites are in a whole nation and all people, it was the
beginning for me to like the world and myself."
The Most Important International
11. Ruth Oron (essayist and translator): "As an
Israeli, I learned from Aesthetic Realism the one solution
to the agonizing crisis between Israelis and Palestinians.,
We must answer honestly this beginning question, asked by
Eli Siegel: 'What does a person deserve by being alive?' As
I saw that the Palestinian people have hopes and fears,
feelings about their homeland as real as my own, my feeling
of superiority and hatred toward them changed into a desire
to be just."
Liking the World on an Honest
12. Anthony Romeo (architect): "I am eternally
grateful to Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism for teaching me
that the world I once so angrily saw as so confusing has a
structure I can honestly like: it is an aesthetic oneness of
opposites. As I came to see, for instance, that heaviness
and lightness, sweetness and severity are one in a beautiful
building and that I am trying to put these opposites
together in myself, my anger changed, and I felt for the
first time that my life had meaning and the world was my
We have much more to say about why
Aesthetic Realism is the birthright of
every human being and why studying it is the best thing that
can happen to anyone. We come from every regiion in
the United States and from six other countries: France,
Argentina, Brazil, the USSR, Germany, Israel. In our careful
opinion of Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism, in our love for
them, we represent humanity We represent you.
I omit the rest of the ad, because it's mostly a list
of AR books and other ways to study AR and I don't feel like
typing in all that tiny-print type. But let me include a
couple of bits. This first one has the ad quoting from one
of their books:
"With every cell in my
body, I thank Mr. Siegel....My homosexual feelings
stopped....In being close to my dear wife, in holding her
in my arms, I have emotions more powerful and kinder than
I expected to have ever in my life."
Pretty moving stuff, huh?! So what became of this
person? Well, er, he kind of divorced his wife and left the
In another section they proffer the book Goodbye
Profit System, based on Siegel's lectures
championing socialism (and that's socialism in the true
sense of the word, not the current idea where any attempt by
Obama to increase any government service is dismissively
branded as Socialism by the right-wing). AR even published a
book in the 1970's based on Siegel's lectures called
"Goodbye Profit System" predicting the fall of the free
market system. (How's that working out?) Anyway, here's part
of AR's summary of the
"Eli Siegel showed in a
series of lectures what no other economist saw, and what
is true now and for all time: A way of economics based on
contempt for man—though it went on for many
centuries—no longer works.....Eli Siegel's
knowledge of history was unsurpassed, and he was
humanity's greatest friend."
Finally, there's this bit, quoting Eli Siegel
"According to Aesthetic
Realism, the greatest sin that a person can have is the
desire for contempt."
This is important because the AR people are trying to say
that they see nothing wrong with homosexuality, that they
merely helped people who wanted to change. The reality is
that they viewed homosexuality as "the greatest sin that a
person can have", because they believe homosexuality arrises
from contempt. In their 1971 book on the subject, one of the
"Siegel said it to me many
times: 'Get rid of your contempt and you will get rid of
one of the chief ingredients in homosexuality."
Note: I omitted the names of
people who left AR, because they no longer wish to be
associated with it.
What's on this site
What is Aesthetic Realism?
An explanation about both the AR philosophy and the group that promotes it.
Cult aspects of Aesthetic Realism
Fanatical devotion to the leader, cutting off relations with families who aren't also believers -- it's all here.
AR and Homosexuality
The AR group used to try to "cure" people of being gay. They stopped that in 1990 because high-profile success cases kept deciding they were gay after all and leaving. AR has never said their gay-changing attempts were wrong.
AR's founder killed himself
AR's founder Eli Siegel killed himself, but the AR people have been trying to hide that fact. They can't hide any more, since enough former students have come forward to confirm the truth.
Attempts to recruit schoolchildren
Some AR members are public schoolteachers, and yep, they do try to recruit in the classroom.
How cults recruit new members.
Explains how a rational person can unwittingly get sucked into a cult group.
Mind control tricks
This article explains AR's use of Directed Origination, a classic tool for brainwashing. Also see the article where someone infiltrated the group to learn about their mind control methods.
Five reasons you can't trust an Aesthetic Realist
One reason is that most people who were in AR eventually woke up and got out. See more about this, plus four other reasons.
Lies Aesthetic Realists tell
They say they never saw homosexuality as something to cure. They say the leader didn't kill himself. They say my family left the group when I was an infant. These and more are debunked here.
Hypocrisy of the Aesthetic Realists
It takes some serious brainwashing for the members to not realize that they're guilty of what they accuse others of.
Aesthetic Realism glossary
We explain the real meanings behind the loaded language that AR people use.
AR in their own words
The AR people spent a third of a million dollars
for a double-page ad in the NY Times to tell the world that the
press' refusal to cover AR is just as wrong as letting hungry people
starve to death.
Ad for the gay
AR bought huge ads in major newspapers to trumpet
their ability to "fix" gays.
letters from AR people
When a theater critic casually dissed Aesthetic
Realism in New York magazine, the AR people responded with hundreds
of angry letters, calling the article "a crime against humanity".
The AR people blunderingly made a tape recording
of a secret meeting they had, where they lambasted a member who had
supposedly been "cured" of his gayness, but then found to still be
cruising for gay sex. Their screeching hostility towards him is matched
only by their fear that the secret will get out.
For the first time the public can see what really
happens in an Aesthetic Realism "consultation" (thanks to a former
member sharing his tape with us). In the session the AR counselors
tried to help the member not be gay, explaining that the path to
ex-gayness was to express deep gratitude to AR and its founder.
Actual AR lesson
I had a lesson with the cult leader, Eli Siegel, when I was two years
old, which, like everything else, they made a tape of. The highlight is
Siegel taunting me with "Cry some more, Michael, cry some more!"
Ad in the Village Voice from 1962
The AR folks try to deny that they're a cult in this ancient ad -- showing that people were calling them a cult as far back as 1962!
responds to this website
The AR people have tried to rebut this website
with their own site called Countering the Lies, whose title
ought to win some kind of award for irony. Here we explain the story
behind that site.
What former members say
The ultimate statement by a former member, who
was involved for well over a decade.
of getting sucked in.
This former member describes exactly how he
initially got drawn in, and how he then kept getting more and more
Growing up in a cult. An ex-member who was born into AR tells what it was like growing up in the group, and how she got out.
Realism ruined his marriage. "I consider my 'study' of
Aesthetic Realism to be one of the factors that led to the eventual
breakup of my marriage, to my eternal sorrow."
having all the answers. A former member explains how AR
members think they have all the answers, and feel qualified to lecture
others about how they should view personal tragedy.
Kicked out for remaining gay. Former students describe how they
were kicked out of AR because they couldn't change from homosexuality. Ron Schmidt and Miss Brown.
"Leaving, however was only the first challenge.". One of the original teachers of Aesthetic Realism explains the cultic environment inside the group, and how she got out.
disappointed them, then I now consider that a badge of honor."
A former member tells how AR try to change him from being gay, and
convinced him not to spend Christmas with his family.
were controlled and humiliated if they stepped out of line...".
The experiences shared with us by a member from 1974-80, now a Fortune
Ellen Reiss questioned!" This former member wonders why there
hasn't been a class-action lawsuit against the foundation yet.
took his consultation tape. Describes how the AR people
kept his consultation tape with his most intimate thoughts on it, and
told him he couldn't study any more unless he incorporated AR more
radically into his life.
"There isn't any question: Eli Siegel killed himself."
A former member who had sought AR's "gay cure" explains how the group's leaders admitted that the founder took his own life.
all the criticism. A former member from 1971-80,
confirms that AR students don't see their families, are discouraged
from attending college, and shun other members. He also offers that he
was mistaken when he was involved about thinking that AR had changed
him from homosexuality.
description. Your webmaster describes his own family's
interviewed in Jewish Times. This lengthy article in
Jewish Times quotes former students of Aesthetic Realism extensively.
NY Post article.
A series of articles in the NY Post quotes many former members who are
now critical of the group.
Realism debunked. A former student explains the cult
aspects of AR. Posted on Steve Hassan's Freedom of Mind website.
Thinking of leaving AR?
If you're thinking of leaving the group, you're not alone. Let's face it: Most people who have ever studied AR have left -- and not come back. There's got to be a reason for that. Curious about what they figured out? Worried about the fallout if you do decide to leave? Here's everything you need to know.
Recovering from your AR experience.
People who leave cults often need special therapy to cope with what they went through. Whether you decide to seek counseling or choose to go it alone, here's what you need to know.
NY Mag called AR "a cult of messianic nothingness" and Harper's referred to them as "the Moonies of poetry". We've got reprints of articles, plus some help for journalists researching AR. (And here are shortcuts to the landmark articles in New York Native, the NY Post and Jewish Times.)
Site News / Blog
Here's some news and commentary that I add from time to time.
Aesthetic Realism at a Glance
Aesthetic Realism Foundation
|Eli Siegel, poet and art/literary critic.
Committed suicide in 1978
|To get the world to realize that Eli Siegel was the greatest person who ever lived, and that Aesthetic Realism is the most important knowledge, ever.
|The key to all social ills is for people to learn to like the world. Having contempt for the world leads to unhappiness and even insanity. (Their slogan is "Contempt causes insanity".) For example, homosexuality is a form of insanity caused by not liking the world sufficiently.
Also teaches that "beauty is the making one of
|New York City (SoHo)
|About 106 (33 teachers, 44 training to be teachers, and 29 regular students). Has failed to grow appreciably even after 70 years of existence, and is currently shrinking.
All members call themselves "students", even the leaders/teachers. Advanced members who teach others are called "consultants".
Method of study
|Public seminars/lectures at their headquarters (in lower Manhattan), group classes, and
individual consultations (three consultants vs. one student).
- Fanatical devotion to their leader/founder
- Belief that they have the one true answer to universal happiness
- Ultimate purpose is to recruit new members
- Feeling that they are being persecuted
- Wild, paranoid reactions to criticism
- Non-communication (or at least very limited communication) with those who have left
- Odd, specialized language.
More about cult aspects...
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